After the Catamounts' ticket was finally punched to the dance yesterday I started to wonder: If I were to pull together a Top-10 list of events I've covered, what else would be on it? Here's the list I drew up, in no particular order except for UVM's win being at the top.
• During a dry run after arriving on site for UVM-Syracuse I can't get my laptop to file from the arena (it requires calling back to the newspaper with a credit card number and my transmission program won't allow me to input the final digit of something like a 24-number string). To make sure I will be able to file my story, I walk/jog into town on the afternoon of the game and find an open wireless network, just in case. After the game I write my story, run the however many blocks into town and file from a bench at a bus stop outside a business with a couple of panhandlers eyeing me suspiciously. I'm not sure Red Smith ever did it that way, but it is worth it.
• Another NCAA basketball game, this one in 2000. The Dartmouth women fall behind defending national champion Purdue in the first half at West Lafayette, Ind., by a 30-10 score. The Boilermaker fans are having a party in the stands, sending their cheer round-and-round the circular arena. Pretty cool. Given that it is the second game of a doubleheader with an hour time difference, I am going to struggle to make my deadline but with the rout on, I type away. My "running" story is essentially done at halftime and I can breathe easy. All I have to do is add the quotes. Then Dartmouth comes alive. My story is toast when the Big Green goes on a 15-4 run to tie the contest at 66-66 with 2:18 left. Purdue hits a hoop with 45 seconds to play, the Big Green misses a good chance to tie and Purdue drains to free throws to escape with a 70-66 win. I write sitting in a folding chair in the press room waiting for the coaches and players to come out and somehow make my deadline. Dartmouth's Courtney Banghart, now the Princeton coach, is the best player on the court for either team. I still think if the officials hadn't made phantom calls that stapled freshman center Kat Hanks to the bench for most of the game the Big Green would have won.
• The 1995 Masters. Deciding to drive to Georgia, I use an early AOL account to score a "camping" spot for our VW pop-top camper in the parking lot of a beauty salon right outside the gate to Augusta National. While others have to fight the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Washington Road, I walk back and forth from my mobile office to the course. For a few holes I follow a young player who is making his debut at Augusta. Fellow by the name of Tiger Woods.
• The 2004 Masters is Phil Mickelson's first major.
• The 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah outside of Chicago. Hale Irwin wins in a playoff. I have been sent to cover the Open because two locals qualified. One is current Dartmouth golf coach Rich Parker. The other is Jeff Julian, grandson of legendary Dartmouth basketball coach Doggie Julian. The two players' time on the course does not overlap so I can walk all 18 holes with each of them. New sneakers and 36 holes make for a bad combination. Julian's significant other at the time likes to walk the course barefoot. A certain writer, battling blisters to write home about, does the same thing alongside her on the second day. The blisters take a week to heal.
• The 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol when 40-year-old Jack Nicklaus proves he can still play by outlasting Isao Aoki. Traffic being what it is in Springfield, N.J., I am probably the only writer who arrives by 10-speed bicycle after riding from my parent's house 13 miles away.
• Go figure. The 1986 NCAA Northeast Regional is being hosted by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. All-American Mike Remlinger strikes out 13 in a four-hit shutout victory over 51-11 Michigan. Among others, Michigan's Jim Abbott, who has just one hand, and Fordham's Pete Harnisch will join Remlinger as major league pitchers. A highlight of the trip is a visit to The Varsity, the world's largest drive-in restaurant.
• 1980 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony on Feb. 13. The Miracle on Ice games begin. The gate attendants do not take my ticket as I simply walk in. Times have changed. I will leave the arena alongside Russian athletes and make a point of touching the fur coat of one of them – just to be able to say I did. The only event I see is luge. Standing alongside the track, the first competitor whizzes by and all of us are astonished at the speed. I shoot a whole roll of film at the luge track. The best I have is a blur of motion. On one frame.
• Nov. 23, 1996. Dartmouth football completes its only 10-0 season with a 24-0 victory at Princeton. After escaping with a 27-24 win at Brown the week before on a dropped pass, the Big Green is not going to be denied. In a look back at that season several years ago, I wrote:
On the way to becoming the first 10-0 team in school history, the Big Green won low-scoring games (6-3 against Harvard) and high-scoring games (38-21 against Cornell). It won by overpowering a once-beaten team (40-0 against Columbia) and by sneaking past a .500 team (27-24 against Brown). It won with a little bit of luck and a lot of faith. It won with character and characters.
• May 11, 2003. Dartmouth men's lacrosse, which is making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA playoffs, leads perennial powerhouse Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, 11-10 with 4:23 remaining in the game. The Orangemen, participants in the last 21 NCAA Tournaments, are in the national playoffs for the 24th time overall and pull out a 13-11 win. Dartmouth goalie Andrew Goldstein stuns the crowd by scoring a goal. Football/lacrosse player Ryan Danehy, now a Big Green lax assistant, leads Dartmouth with three goals and one assist. Syracuse hoops coach Jim Boeheim sits behind me in a relatively empty press box. After filing my story, I can't find my way out of the Carrier Dome. I finally punt and use an emergency exit. Can't remember if it sent off an alarm. Calling the paper to "confirm" my copy has made it, I tell my editor about my troubles getting out of the Dome and how there was a huge rush of air when I opened the door. Without missing a beat, he tells me the wires have a story about the Dome collapsing. For a second he has me.
• Spring, 1980. Lebanon righthander Rob Woodward will go on to pitch for the Boston Red Sox, but it is Oxbow High's Bob Valliant, one year his senior, who I can see making the big leagues. A 6-foot-3 southpaw with blazing speed and a fall-off-the-table curve, he is warming up behind the backstop and the ball sounds like a gun going off with each pitch that hits the catcher's glove. Players from the visiting team keep sticking their heads out of the dugout to sneak peaks. Another Valliant no-hitter is assured before he throws his first pitch in anger. After throwing way too many innings in the Vermont state playoffs, Valliant is drafted in the sixth round by the Montreal Expos and hurts his arm in his very first game in Calgary and by all accounts is never the same. He is one and done that year and in five years as a pro never makes it above Class A.